A Saanich man will be running from Duncan to Victoria this weekend, but the 60-kilometre trek is eclipsed by what he’s already been able to achieve.
Jerry Hughes and his coach Yana Hempler will make the journey from Duncan to Victoria Sunday in order to raise funds and awareness for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.
Hughes and his siblings were born with a rare and aggressive genetic disorder called Gardner’s syndrome, a disease that claimed his father at the age of 33. If not detected early, those with Gardner’s syndrome have an average life expectancy of between 35 and 45 years.
Hughes fitness journey began about two years ago. After going through a fitness bootcamp and taking part in the Fight 4 The Cause, Hughes entered the TC 10k and Oak Bay Half Marathon, finishing in 44:43 and 1:40:43 respectively.
“At that point, I realized that I had some natural ability as a runner, but needed help, so I got Yana Hempler to coach me,” said Hughes.
“I have done a series of runs since then and I keep on getting better. Now, I’m doing marathons and ultra marathons as well as many other races. I’m doing it to show my sons, who have a 50 per cent chance of getting my disease, to not let the illness define their life but that they should carve their own path regardless of the circumstances.”
Hempler has been working with Hughes since December and says he has already shaved five minutes off his 10k time and eclipsed his half-marathon time by more than 12 minutes.
I’m excited to be a part of his journey because I know that he is going places. He never gives up until he achieves his goals, never makes excuses and that’s admirable,” said Hempler, who is also from Saanich.
The idea for the 60-kilometre run came from a run Hempler made a couple of years ago from Port Hardy to Victoria.
“Duncan to Victoria seemed like a very gradual start to this journey that Jerry wants to go on, which is to do more fundraising runs down the road,” she said. “He wants to qualify for Boston Marathon and show people that have rare genetic disorders that anything’s possible.”
The Help Fill a Dream Foundation is a cause close to Hughes’ heart, as he and his siblings were given a dream vacation to Disneyland when they were teenagers.
Hughes’ goal is to inspire other people with rare disorders to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams.
“The mind is a powerful tool and you can do anything you want in life. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Carve your own path and you will inspire the world.”
Those interested in making a donation can email Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/raise-awareness-for-rare-gentic-disorders.
“We’re just hoping people can help out and donate whatever they can, whether it’s a dollar or $200,” said Hempler.